Playing team ball has been a calling card for the Tapestry boys basketball team all season long, and that couldn’t have been more evident than in Saturday’s Class C championship.
Six players scored at least eight points for the third-seeded Thunder Hawks (17-6) in their 63-54 win over No. 1 Randolph (13-10) at Jamestown Community College to secure the program’s second Section VI title and first since 2015.
Freshman point guard Tariq Eubanks scored a team-high 13 points and dished out six assists. Senior Emanuel Truheart had 12 points and seven rebounds, while classmate Mike Towns added 10 points, eight rebounds and eight of the team’s 10 steals.
“For two years we worked hard for this day,” Eubanks said. “We just wanted to do this for everybody in our school and everybody around Buffalo. This is a hard, long season, and we still gotta work. We still got some weaknesses we got to fix.”
It took awhile, but Tapestry’s full-court pressure and high-tempo offense eventually wore down a Cardinals team that relies on the three ball.
The Thunder Hawks knew that coming in, having won a 77-65 nonleague game at Randolph in late January. The Cardinals made eight three-pointers that day, five coming from standout sophomore Tyler Hind. They made nine on Saturday and limited Hind (16 points) to three, all in the first half.
“We saw how they played against Chautauqua Lake (in the semifinals), and we knew we had to stop them from all the deep threes,” Eubanks said. “We didn’t want Tyler to get off. If he would’ve it would have been a long, hard match.”
When Tapestry coach Mike Ester wasn’t running a double team at Hind and forcing the ball out of his hands, the defensive assignment fell on Towns.
“I think my senior, Mike Towns, did a great job on their shooter,” Ester said. “We told him don’t leave him, and I think that changed the game around because once he made the pass, we wanted to make sure he didn’t get it back.”
Randolph held a 12-7 lead after the first eight minutes on all three-point baskets. Hind made his first from well beyond the arc 19 seconds in.
The Cardinals opened the second quarter with another three and ended the first half on an 11-2 run for a 28-16 lead after the Thunder Hawks made it 17-14 halfway through.
Tapestry pulled within two points twice in the third quarter. It came out of the break on a 16-6 run to make it 34-32 with 1:30 left and then had a 37-35 deficit a minute later. Randolph answered each time with a three, its third- and second-last of the game, and Hind converted a traditional three-point play with .4 seconds left to go up, 43-38.
The Thunder Hawks started their 25-point fourth quarter on a 7-0 run to take their first lead of the game, 45-43, with 6:22 left on a Towns field goal. Both teams reached the bonus with about six minutes to go, and Tapestry outscored Randolph, 18-11, the rest of the way.
CLASS C FINAL: Tapestry 63, Randolph 54.
— Corey Desiderio (@cpdesi1) March 4, 2018
Unlike the disappointment of getting upset in the first round of the playoffs last season, Tapestry is headed to next Saturday’s Far West Regionals at Buffalo State against Section V’s Class C representative at 1:45 p.m.
The biggest reason for that, according to Ester, has been the performance of the youngest player on the roster.
“We got a point guard, which is our leader, Mr. Eubanks,” Ester said. “He controlled the tempo and settled everybody down. He made a big difference.
“He’s grown tremendously because when he first started, he was just running up and down. … The more he played, he believed in the system and he started slowing down and did what he did best, which is control the tempo of the game to the way we like it.”